Four skills never go out of style:
- Keyboarding, or, as we warm gals call it, typing
- Proofreading, or attention to detail
- Punctuation (meaning cannot exist without form)
You can't depend on Spell Czech. Those Prague Mamas are probably hot, too. The Kingdom of Bohemia may be one of those European countries lacking in ice cubes, but I can't research that right now. My main concern is the age at which a woman crosses the line from girl to gal.
Wikipedia doesn't consider age connotations of female synonyms:
The word girl has many synonyms, including "belle", "chick", "doll", "gal", "lass" or "lassie", "maiden", and "miss". The slang word "gal", as in "Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight", is a variant pronunciation of girl.
In my search for enlightenment, I slogged through a mucky slough of academic jargon before finding a flicker of clarity:
In all University settings, members of the University community should:
1. Use gender equivalent construction. Equivalent or parallel construction should be used for males and females. Thus, if males are referred to as “men,” females should be referred to as “women,” not as “girls” or “ladies.”
2. Use alternatives to the masculine singular pronoun for generic singular. The masculine singular pronoun traditionally has been used as the generic singular. Such usage fails to acknowledge the participation of women in human activity unless they are specifically identified. Alternatives to the use of “he,” “him,” and “his” for the generic singular are he/she, she/he, her/him, him/her, hers/his, his/hers or one’s. Some individuals may prefer to alternate the use of the male and female singular pronoun to indicate generic singular. While some alternatives may seem awkward when they are first used, they become comfortable with usage and will, as any other language construction, become second nature in time. It is this natural incorporation of women into language on an equal basis with men that is the purpose of non-sexist language usage. [I don't have the slightest idea what this means, but it sounds kinkier** than the title of this post!]....
...6. Exhibit non-patronizing, non-condescending ways of describing and addressing women, particularly women in traditional occupations, e.g., secretaries, clerks, nurses. Both men and women should be sensitized to the negative effects which result from usage of terms such as “girl,” “gal,” “coed,”, “girl Friday,” the “girls in the office,” and the like.
I'm happy to report my discovery of Ruth Walker's "Words On the Move" column in the Christian Science Monitor***. I'll be checking in often for my language usage fix:
There are plenty of colloquialisms for "female person": They start with terms like "chick" and go on through terms you aren't going to read in this space. What they have in common is that they define women as "the other," in a way that terms like "guy" or "bloke" do not define men. When Simone de Beauvoir called her book about women "The Second Sex," people knew what she meant.
There's "gal," which isn't to everyone's taste. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a "vulgar or dial. pronunciation of 'girl.'" (The Compact Oxford is somewhat more forgiving, defining it as an informal, chiefly North American term for "girl or young woman." In practice, "gal" has a rather flexible upward age limit; see "Golden Girls," above.) "Gal Friday," or " girl Friday," has worked its way into the language as a takeoff on "Man Friday," itself a phrase of dubious political correctness. Nowadays "his girl Friday" may well be the executive vice president for strategy and human resources. But why was it ever OK for the counterpart of "man" to be "gal," anyway?
*Yes, I checked two dictionaries on this one! Gals, your dictionary is your friend in a way that the masculine singular pronoun for generic singular never could be. Now excuse me. I have a volleyball game at seven.
**This blog has no opinion at the moment on the independent candidacy of Kinky Friedman for governor of Texas. I've read some of his books, but didn't think them as funny as he did. By the way, that's what my dad says about the guys on Car Talk.